Postcards from the Class of 2015

June 2, 2015

THE GRACES TO BE RECEIVED
May 18-May 30, 2015
by Michael Anani (Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph)

It feels like “The Rome Experience” actually started today, May 21, since I woke up in France. Up to now we have either been in Chicago or experiencing several travel glitches, but today we start a routine so hopefully we will truly start to get a feel for “The Rome Experience”.

However, just to show how God always grants us graces if we are open to them I did have a very moving experience on the flight to Lyon, however. Keep in mind this was a flight that we only took because we missed our originally scheduled flight several hours earlier. I sat next to a young man from El Salvador named Alvaro who is a devout Catholic finishing up a MBA degree. His girlfriend is a supernumerary of Opus Dei in fact. An Opus Dei priest had been instrumental in my catechism before my confirmation Mass back in 1991 and of course Opus Dei has a connection with this program. There are no coincidences only God incidences. We had a very interesting chat and it also turned out that his mother had just visited Medjugorje.
She had taken one of the most amazing pictures I have ever seen and after showing it to me Alvaro promised to email it to me as well. It is a beam of sunlight shining directly down on a statue of the Virgin Mary on an otherwise very cloudy and overcast day. This sunbeam shone on her statue only, two feet in any direction from the statue it was overcast and dark, but the statue was cast in brilliant sunlight and you could see the focused beam coming down from the dark sky except for the tiny opening to let thru that one lone ray of sun. It truly was a spectacular photo.

So there are graces to be received, even when things don’t go as we planned them too.

A PERSONAL LOVING RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST

One of the themes I have meditated and prayed about a lot since I entered seminary is why our Catholic young people who go off to college leave the faith. Father Eric gave a short reflection that touched on this phenomenon. He began by describing the Charismatic movement within the Catholic Church and noting that God gave us passions and emotions when he created us as material beings and acknowledged that searching for a good feeling is not inappropriate. However, we are judged by our actions ultimately, not our feelings. As Jesus said in Mathew chapter 25, not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If we see people hungry, sick, etc., and feel compassion for them but do nothing about it, Jesus will not recognize us at the end of our lives.

Since we are judged by our actions we need rules to live by, but religion based solely on action becomes empty and dry. Father Eric, whose ministry is working with college age youth, at this point expressed the opinion that often young people view Catholicism as a bunch of rules and that is why they leave the faith.

Even though we are ultimately judged by our actions, good works are not the goal of our religion. A personal loving relationship with Jesus Christ is the goal. This is what the Holy Spirit and the Church keep bringing to my attention as I pray and meditate about how I would like to lead a parish someday if God willing I am ever ordained. How can we help people, young people and everyone else, encounter Jesus in a personal way with “heartfelt affection” as Father Eric says, so they don’t see rules as restrictions but as tools to help us learn to love Jesus more and more and prepare us for eternal life?